Upon returning from my family vacation in Florida, I've done some reflecting. One thing I kept noticing was how much arguing I was seeing among families, especially as it got into late evening. My family and I commented on how we were having a great time with no augments to be had! It is completely understandable to find yourself in sour mood when you are at the happiest place on Earth on a 10 out of 10 crowd day! So, how did my family do it? Here are my top tips for managing a theme park on a crowded day.
1. Manage expectations.
You are not going to ride it all. You are not going to see it all. Decide what you must do and then be prepared to wait for it. Going in knowing that you may only ride three rides the entire day will really help you manage your exceptions on truly crowded days.
2. Use FastPass Plus
I booked our trip well into the Fast Pass plus window so by the time I logged in, I was unable to get Flight of Passage Fast passes. However, I was able to get every other attraction we really wanted. And we went in with the expectation that those might be the only rides we get on that day - and that was okay with us. While we wanted to ride Flight of Passage, our family would not wait over three hours to do so. It will just have to wait until next time.
3. Use Mobile Ordering
On our Magic Kingdom day, Pinocchio's Village Haus was the spot chosen for Lunch. The line was well out the door on onto the walk way. There were cast members posted at every entrance to make sure people weren't going in the wrong way and weren't getting tables without food. Luckily, my family had placed our order on my phone while waiting in line earlier that day the meet Donald and Goofy. As we walked to the restaurant, I submitted our order. By the time we arrived it was ready for pick-up. I was directed to one of the exit doors where I showed the mobile order to the cast member and she sent me right in and directly to the counter where my food was ready to pick up! I asked for a few glasses of water and we were ready to eat. Guests in line still had a thirty minute wait to get to the counter!
We used the mobile ordering every day, and by the end of the trip, we only ate at places where we could mobile order. Use it!
4. Use the in park 'quests'
Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom all have what I like to call 'quests'. In Magic Kingdom there is the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Game. In Epcot the Agent P's World Showcase Adventure. In Animal Kingdom the Wilderness Explorer program. All of these are free programs that the whole family can do! This was my seventh trip to Disney World and I have never done any of these before. But with lines longer that we were willing to wait, these alternative activities are great!
We had a blast in the Magic Kingdom - start at the fire station to get a card pack and start your game. From there you are directed to different locations to start your quest. We started playing this game around seven pm and there were no lines at the locations! In fact, others who were tiredly milling about were surprised to see the windows come to life!
In Epcot we participated in the Chip and Dale ornament spree rather than Agent P's adventure. Epcot has a variety of hunts throughout the year - usually tied to a festival - where you search for things located in each country. This activity does have a fee - 6.99 for ours - and you get a 'prize' at the redemption location at the end.
Wilderness Explorer program in Animal Kingdom has the added benefit of helping you learn about the things you see. Keep in mind this program does not run all day - it ends before dusk.
5. Allow extra time for transportation
On peak days, buses get full. If you have a fast pass you can't miss or a dinner reservation, be sure to give ample time to arrive at your park. Keep in mind there is a 15 minute grace period after your fast pass ends, but then you are out of luck.
6. Use a crowd calendar
I picked our parks based on Touring Plans crowd calendar. On Christmas Day we were in Epcot. The most popular park that day, Magic Kingdom, closed for a while because it was at capacity. When I start planning a trip, I pick my park days based on which one is the lowest crowd prediction. This may or may not be the park with extra magic hours! If you have a park hopper, use it to get out when crowds get bad.
7. Don't push it
One of the hardest things for me is that I want to maximize time in the parks. After all, I've traveled all this way! However, going from park open to close on busiest days is a fast way to wear on your nerves. When you are tired, call it a night! Getting sleep is important for your body and your mind on peak days.
8. It is a resort - not just theme parks
One of the best things we did this trip was go to Winter Summerland and miniature golf! We arrived at opening and had so much fun, we did two rounds! There are so many things to do all around the resort and at the hotels - take advantage of them!
9. Don't wait to go
By go, I mean to the bathroom! The parks were so busy, there was always a line at the women's restroom. You can really get yourself in a pickle if you wait until you're 'full' and then have to wait ten minutes.
Finally, keep a list of cast members who make a difference during your trip. If you are feeling grumpy because of the crowds, imagine what it's like for the cast. I keep a memo in my phone and when a cast member went above and beyond - help us carry a lunch tray, a custodial staff in the restroom pointing out open stalls, and a photopass photographer who explained the app. Write down the name on the name tag, the date, location, and time. You can of course, thank them in person, but an even better way is to get them an official thanks. When you get home, send an email to: WDW.Guest.Communications@disneyworld.com
I sent mine yesterday and got a lovely reply that same day. The cast members will get recognition in their file and their leadership will be told. It really is a great way to end your trip!